Legislation is currently pending in the House of Representatives which would allow employers to offer “comp time” in lieu of overtime for nonexempt employees working in excess of 40 hours per week. Titled “The Family-Friendly Workplace Act,” the bill would give employees the option receiving one-and-one-half hours of paid leave for every hour worked over 40 in a given week, instead of receiving time-and-one-half overtime pay. Currently, the Fair Labor Standards Act (“the FLSA”) prohibits private-sector comp time, permitting only federal government employees to receive time off in lieu of overtime pay.
Comp time legislation resurfaces every few years, but its proponents have never been successful in bringing about a change in the FLSA. Critics – primarily labor unions and employee advocacy groups – argue that providing an alternative to mandated overtime payments would be subject to abuse, and employees’ elections to receive time off in lieu of pay might be coerced rather than voluntary.
Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the sponsor of the current bill, feels differently. In her recent press release, she states:
“Time is one of our most precious resources. We all want more of it and yet we only have 24 hours in a day. That means we have to figure out how to work a full day, run errands, pack lunches, make dinner and spend quality time with our kids, spouse, or elderly parent,. Giving employees more flexibility in their workweek is key to increasing retention as well as attracting great employees that will help increase our country’s competitiveness.”
The ability to offer comp time would provide welcome flexibility for employers and employees alike, particularly in the small business arena. Whether this bill has any better chance of succeeding than its predecessors remains to be seen.